Dr. Andrew DiMeo, an associate professor of the practice in the UNC/NC State Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME), and Dr. Jason Long, a cardio-thoracic surgeon at UNC, started with a spin off idea.
After receiving a $10,000 grant from the Lineberger Cancer Center, they launched the Medical Innovators Collaborative (MEDIC) in summer 2015. Today, MEDIC has a physical location at the Frontier, in the Research Triangle Park, for two years thanks to an $85,000 Catalysts for Innovation grant awarded last fall.
“It’s given us a place to call home,” said Tim Martin, NC State BME grad and co-founder and acting president of MEDIC.
The grant has helped legitimize MEDIC, according to DiMeo.
“We have a long history of innovative ideas that come out of the classroom and the huge majority of them are really cool ideas sitting on shelves. I’m certain this would be one of those cool ideas sitting on a shelf if it wasn’t for the Catalysts grant.”
MEDIC works to provide asset assessment and development, innovation training, industry relevant professional seminars and student internships. The goal is to create a medical device hub known for providing better, more mature technologies based on student and industry projects that lead to improving the quality of medical devices, which will hopefully lead to more startups and more jobs.
“It’s really important for us to be an enhancement to the community; we want for (MEDIC) to be a reason to come to NC State and to the surrounding area,” DiMeo said.
Currently, the collaborative is working on four projects with three more slated to begin this spring.
One of the current projects started with a mother looking for help. The mother of MaKayla Grace called College of Engineering Dean Louis Martin-Vega’s office looking for someone to help her 2-year old daughter, who suffers from Arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC), a congenital contracture disease that locks a patient’s joints into place. She can only move her left arm at the shoulder.
The call was routed to DiMeo, and the team at MEDIC responded by assembling a group of NC State undergraduate and graduate student interns. Through the collaborative model MEDIC is setting up, they are working to provide assistance that other organizations don’t have the bandwidth for.
“We’re working with them to develop something that will help her get some motion back in her arm — just enough so she can play around — as kids should,” said Andy Taylor, BME grad, co-founder and program director at MEDIC.
Other projects include creating an attachment for an existing wheel chair to help an Alzheimer’s patient with limited mobility to move his feet, working with neonatologists at UNC Hospital to develop a simulator for inserting chest tubes, and continuing the work from Taylor’s senior design class on a phototherapy device for infants with neonatal jaundice.
With the slew of projects the collaborative works on, MEDIC makes a point of hiring students not only from NC State, but also UNC Chapel Hill, Duke, and any other local college with students interested in acquiring biomedical device product development experience. “We are making product development education a big part of the focus,” said Taylor.
“MEDIC’s projects are the key to our model — addressing the gap in product development in the healthcare space with student teams from universities to give them an experience that they may not be able to get in the traditional education path,” said Martin.